From ND to DC

ND volunteer Karen Macdonald and Reba Mathern-Jacobson, Director of Program Services for the ND Chapter, joined almost 100 March of Dimes volunteers and staff to brave the unseasonable spring snow to speak up for pregnant women, infants and families on Capitol Hill! Over 150 meetings were conducted with Congressional offices to ask them to support funding for maternal and child health programs, passage of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Reauthorization Act, and extension of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until 2019.
Over two fabulous days, staff and volunteers attended interactive trainings to build both issues expertise and advocacy skills, as well as hearing from policy and political experts.


A recent study at Brown University demonstrates the importance of talking to babies in the NICU.  This study, led by Dr. Betty Vohr, concluded that language development later on in the preemies life is benefitted by how much conversation is directed toward the baby while in the NICU. Babies who are spoken to directly, such as “Hi baby, mom is here”, see a much higher benefit then babies who are exposed to others simply talking around them.

This study observed 36 pre-term infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and recorded the amount of language directed at the baby both at 32 weeks and 36 weeks development (8 and 4 weeks before baby’s official due date.)  They then assessed the language development of the infants at 7 months and 18 months.  The study found that for every 100 words spoken to the infant while in the NICU, there was a 2 point increase in their language scores at 18 months.

Previous studies have also shown that while babies can’t vocally participate in the conversation, they will turn their head in the direction of their mother’s voice.

In all of the commotion and emotion that comes with having a baby in the NICU it is reassuring for parents to know there is something simple they can do to help their little one.

source: TIME


A conference in Florida during the month of February may sound like a fantastic getaway to most people.  Don’t get me wrong, knowing that just outside the walls of the conference rooms sat sand and palm trees instead of snow and ice was wonderful- but after seeing the agenda for the 2014 Gravens Conference- I knew that sand and sun would not be in my future!  At this annual conference for neonatologists, nurses, therapists and March of Dimes staff we learned about everything from fetal mouth movements in feedings, to scientific foundations for compassionate care, and spirituality in the NICU, to the newest plans that March of Dimes has for the NICU Family Support Program.  With all of the information presented I had to go through my notes and redigest everything I had learned!  I cannot list all of the session takeaways that I was given but here are a few:

  • Things we knew antidotally about Kangaroo Care (skin to skin holding), and loving touches sounds and smells (such as mother’s scent) are now being backed up by medical evidence such as EEGs.
  • I have the ability to support early relationships through helping families to be with, know, relate and give care to their babies through guided activities.
  • I can help the family “write a story” that they can live with for the rest of their lives.

I came back from the Gravens Conference even more excited to help families in the NICU that I was when I left! AND my friends, family, coworkers and NICU families who were all jealous of my trip to Florida were happy to hear that it was cloudy, windy and rainy the entire time!

Cassie Skalicky, NICU Family Support Specialist


Did you know there is currently no law in North Dakota regulating the sale of E-cigarettes to minors?  Anyone under the age of 18 can purchase these devices according to North Dakota state law.

However, e-cigarette use by our minors may lead to future tobacco use.  Communities are stepping up and passing ordinances across the state to prevent sale to minors.  Bismarck, Fargo and Williston have all passed ordinances preventing the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Mandan City Commissioners vote to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors tomorrow night, let them hear your support!{7827845C-02FC-4892-91AF-CA70C5C9F105}

Ordinance no. 1180 is an ordinance to amend and re-enact Section 13-21-02 of the Mandan Code of Ordinances relating to tobacco products and to amend and re-enact Section 19-06-03 of the Mandan Code of Ordinances relating to offenses involving minors.  This ordinance includes electronic cigarettes into the city’s definition of tobacco products.  Any ordinance already in place that relates to tobacco products, such as not selling tobacco products to minors, will now include electronic cigarettes under this ordinance.   Electronic cigarettes will be defined as any electronic oral device, such as one composed of a heating element, battery, and/or electronic circuit, which provides a vapor of nicotine or any other substances, and the use or inhalation of which simulates smoking.


Electronic Cigarettes or e-cigarettes are a battery operated device that delivers nicotine to the user.  The smoker inhales the nicotine, flavor and other chemicals in aerosol form coming from the device.  E-cigarettes are not currently being regulated by the FDA.  Potentially harmful components have been documented in some e-cigarette cartridges, including irritants, genotoxins, and animal carcinogens.  We do not know the impact of this new vapor on users and those around the user.

We do know that this device delivers nicotine, a highly addictive drug, and that the device is catching the interest of our youth.  With its appealing flavors such as chocolate, bubble gum and fruit punch, children are drawn to the device and consequently may become addicted to nicotine after continued use.  This addiction may lead our youth to try other tobacco products

Tell a friend about Text4Baby!

Do you know someone who’s expecting a baby?  Have a baby under the age of one? Then tell them about text4baby!

In honor of text4baby’s 4th birthday we at the North Dakota Chapter of March of Dimes are revamping our promotion efforts of the free text messaging service; text4baby. Text4baby is a free health service for families who are expecting or who have an infant under the age of 1!  It’s easy to signup, all the service needs is your phone number and your due date or baby’s birth date.

Families simply text BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411 to receive three free text messages per week throughout their pregnancy and their baby’s first year. The interactive messages are personalized to the mother’s due date or baby’s birth date. Text4baby messages contain additional information, mobile webpages, videos, appointment and immunization reminders, and more requests for participant feedback.

“Text4baby has provided over 678,000 moms with critical health and safety information for the last four years,” said Janice Frey-Angel, CEO of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. “We continue to strengthen the service and find new, innovative ways to serve our audience for years to come.”

We encourage women across the state to participate in this free service to promote the health of our mothers and babies.  We also urge for fathers and other caretaking family members to participate as well, you can never have too many people educated about your baby’s health!

For more information visit


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., JAN. 17, 2014 ­­­– A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General confirms that smoking during pregnancy causes babies to be born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

“We now have confirmation that smoking during pregnancy can damage the health of both mothers and babies.  By quitting smoking before or during pregnancy, a woman will not only improve her own health; she may save her baby from being born too small and with a serious, disfiguring birth defect,” said Edward R. B. McCabe, MD, March of Dimes Chief Medical Officer. “Smoking during pregnancy exposes the baby to dangerous chemicals such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar. These chemicals can reduce how much oxygen the baby gets, affecting the baby’s growth and development.”

“The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress,” was released by the Surgeon General today in honor of the landmark 1963 report that documented the death and disease caused by smoking.

The report also stated that each year about 1,000 infant deaths can be attributed to smoking. Of those, about 40 percent are classified as sudden infant death syndrome, the unexplained death of a baby under a year old while sleeping.

More than 7,000 babies are born in the U.S. each year born with an oral cleft birth defect and smoking increases the risk by 30 to 50 percent; this increased risk can be prevented by quitting smoking. About 23 percent of women smoke during pregnancy.

There are two types of oral cleft defects, a cleft lip, in which a baby’s upper lip doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it; and a cleft palate, in which the roof of the mouth doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it. Both cause feeding problems, and may lead to ear infections, hearing problems, difficulty speaking, and dental problems.

In addition to oral cleft defects, smoking during pregnancy is known to contribute to preterm birth and stillbirth.

March of Dimes chapters nationwide fund quit smoking programs for women, and you can learn more from the chapter in your area. The March of Dimes also has information for women about quitting smoking on its website at:

Tips  to help quit include:

  • Write down your reasons for quitting. Look at the list when you are tempted to smoke.
  • Choose a “quit day.” On that day, throw away all your cigarettes or cigars, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Keep your hands busy using a small stress ball or doing some needlework.
  • Keep yourself occupied, too. Try going for a walk or doing chores to keep your mind off of cravings.
  • Snack on some raw veggies or chew some sugarless gum to ease the need to have something in your mouth.
  • Stay away from places, activities or people that make you feel like smoking.
  • Ask your partner or a friend to help you quit.
  • Ask your health care provider about quitting aids such as patches, gum, nasal spray and medications. Don’t start using these without your health care provider’s okay, especially if you’re pregnant.



WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., FEB. 11, 2014 – Preterm birth costs employers more than $12 billion in excess health care costs, according to new statistics from the March of Dimes. The high cost of preemies was spotlighted recently when AOL cited cuts to the company’s 401(k) benefits on two “distressed” babies born to women working at the company.

“At the March of Dimes, we don’t believe it’s appropriate to single out individual employees’ health care costs when explaining a financial decision,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of March of Dimes. “However, the fact that premature birth is costing companies millions of dollars is something we cannot afford to ignore.  The March of Dimes stands ready to work with AOL and all interested companies on developing policies that can help to reduce employees’ risk of preterm birth.”

According to the March of Dimes, which commissioned an analysis by Truven Health Analytics, Inc., on the costs of prematurity to businesses, the average medical cost for a healthy, full-term baby from birth through the first year was $5,085, of which $4,389 is paid by employer health plans, according to the new data. For premature and/or low birth weight babies (less than 37 weeks gestation and/or less than 2500 grams), the average cost was $55,393, of which $54,149 was paid by the health plan.

“Childbirth and newborn care together are the most expensive medical conditions billed to employer-based insurers,” said Dr. Howse.  “By investing in the prevention of preterm birth, employers can help families and rein in their health care costs at the same time.”

Dr. Howse said the March of Dimes recommends 14 steps businesses can take to support maternal and newborn health and offers “Healthy Babies, Healthy Business®,” a web-based pregnancy wellness program. More information is available at

The March of Dimes contracted with Truven Health Analytics, Inc. to estimate the cost of prematurity and complicated deliveries to large employer-based health plans for infants born in 2009.  Analyses of medical costs included inpatient and outpatient medical care and prescription drugs for infants from birth through the first year of life and for mothers including the delivery, prenatal services during the nine months prior to birth, and three months postpartum. Costs have been adjusted to 2011 dollars.

The analyses found that premature and low birth weight infants spent an average of 15 days in the hospital, compared to just over 2 days for healthy, full-term infants. Premature babies averaged about 20 outpatient medical visits compared to just 14 for full-term infants.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at  Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The 2014 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes number one corporate supporter Kmart, Macy’s, Famous Footwear, Cigna, Sanofi Pasteur, Mission Pharmacal, United Airlines, and Actavis.

Be Aware of the Benefits of Folic Acid

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service, Member of the March of Dimes North Dakota Chapter Communications Committee

A few years ago we had a bumper crop of baby girls in our workplace. When we heard gurgles followed by “oohing” and “aahing,” we knew a baby was in the vicinity. Everyone quickly huddled around the squirming little bundle of joy.

During pregnancy, many expectant parents are asked if they want a boy or girl. Usually the answer is, “We want a healthy baby. We don’t care if it’s a boy or girl.”

A healthy baby begins with a healthy pregnancy. Consuming the recommended amount of folic acid is one way to reduce the risk of birth defects, such as spina bifida. This neural tube birth defect occurs when the fetus’ spine does not close completely during the first month of pregnancy. It can result in a wide range of disabilities, including paralysis and developmental issues.

Every woman of childbearing age needs to consume adequate folic acid. For more information, see the NDSU Extension publication titled “Safe and Healthy Eating During Pregnancy” at

In fact, folic acid is needed by all of us, male or female, young or old. Be aware of the benefits of folic acid, especially during January, which is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Can you answer these questions? The answers are listed after the quiz.

1. What is folic acid?
a. A type of fat
b. A vitamin
c. A mineral
d. A protein

2. Why is folic acid important?
a. It helps you see better in the dark.
b. It helps your body use calcium.
c. It helps your body make cells.
d. It helps your blood clot.

3. Folic acid helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. At least what percent of birth defects can be prevented by women consuming enough folic acid?
a. 10 percent
b. 20 percent
c. 40 percent
d. 50 percent

4. Which of these is the best source of folic acid?
a. Fortified cereal
b. Milk
c. Chicken
d. Salmon

Answers: 1. b; 2. c; 3. d; 4. a.

We all need folic acid because our bodies continually build cells. Folic acid is found in most multivitamin supplements or as an individual supplement.

Many foods, including breakfast cereals, flour and pasta, are fortified with folic acid.  Some cereals contain 100 percent of the recommended daily value for folic acid. Read the Nutrition Facts label to find out how much folic acid your favorite cereal contains.

Navy beans, spinach, orange juice, peanuts and romaine lettuce are foods naturally rich in folate, the natural form of the vitamin found in food.

For more information about how you can help improve the health of babies and support families in North Dakota and beyond, see

ACOG and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine’s Opinion Defining the Length of a Full-term Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine has issued a new opinion that defines the length of a full-term pregnancy. 
The definition, which defines a full-term pregnancy as 39 and 40 completed weeks of pregnancy. Early term is 37 and 38 weeks of pregnancy and preterm remains at less than 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine’s definition of a full-term pregnancy as 39 and 40 completed weeks of gestation is a welcome guideline that eliminates confusion about how long an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy should last. This new definition acknowledges that the risk of adverse health consequences for babies changes at each stage of pregnancy. Babies born at 39 to 40 completed weeks of pregnancy have the best chance of a healthy start in life. The March of Dimes calls on all health care professionals and hospitals to embrace and apply the definition of full-term pregnancy and move as quickly as possible to implement it in practices and policies.